Sonoma County chefs John Stewart and Duskie Estes were crowned King and Queen of Porc during the Grand Cochon, a national "snout-to-tail" cook-off held June 20 as part of the Food &amp; Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado.
Estes and Stewart are chef/owners of Zazu in Santa Rosa and Bovolo in Healdsburg. They raise their own pigs, own the Black Pig Meat Co. line of high-end bacon, and routinely cook with the whole animal.
Still, the couple considered themselves a dark horse to take home the top prize.
"In this little porky corner of the world, it's sort of the biggest honor," Stewart said. "We were definitely the small fry at the event."
The chefs were among 10 semi-finalists from 10 cities around the country who earned the chance to enter the competition. They got to the finals after winning the regional cook-off, Cochon 555, in Napa in March.
Even at the regional level, Estes said, there was quite a bit of competition.
"Thomas Keller sent his Ad Hoc chef, and there were two Bay Area rising star chefs there," Estes said. "We did eight dishes."
For the finals in Aspen, each team was asked to prepare three pork dishes. The Sonoma County chefs put a lot of thought into their strategy, based on previous competitions they had judged and attended.
"Because there are so many dishes, people serve a lot of cold meat... and if you're finishing everything with pork fat and lard, it gets to be too much," Stewart said. "So hot dishes stand out, as well as vegetables and pickled things."
For the 20 judges and voting guests, Estes and Stewart served up a Buffalo-wing-style Pork Trotter topped with fresh herbs; a Bacon in the Batter Waffle with Bourbon Gelato and Bacon-Fat Toffee; and an open-faced Pork Bun made with braised pork hearts, cheeks and jowl, topped with radishes, baby cilantro and pickled cherries.
They shipped almost all of their ingredients from Sonoma County, which also gave them an edge over their opponents.
"We did almost all of our prep here and flew it there," Stewart said. "We're really spoiled here, so the ingredients are far superior to anything else in the country."
Among the chefs they beat to the crown were Matt Accarrino of SPRQ in San Francisco, Chad Colby of Mozza in L.A. and Brad Farmerie of Public in New York City.
Estes, who competed in the Food Network's "Iron Chef" last year, took home a rhinestone tiara. The duo shared two Golden Pig trophies, a set of Bob Kramer knives, a set of Le Creuset pots, plus a weekend at Blackberry Farm, a culinary resort in Tennessee.
They also will attend the Cochon Masters on July 24 in Las Vegas, a pig celebration thrown by Cochon 555 founder Brady Lowe.
"Duskie can wear the crown," Stewart said. "And it's all about the bragging rights."
Meanwhile, local fans can order their winning pork dishes at Zazu in Santa Rosa and at a "Winner Winner Black Pig Dinner" planned for later in the summer.
You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or email@example.com.